Global warming is 'twice as bad as previously thought'Golly, Cleetus! Them scientists is usin' kom-pewters, so they's gotta be right!
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
27 January 2005
Global warming might be twice as catastrophic as previously thought, flooding settlements on the British coast and turning the interior into an unrecognisable tropical landscape, the world's biggest study of climate change shows.
Researchers from some of Britain's leading universities used computer modelling to predict that under the "worst-case" scenario, London would be under water and winters banished to history as average temperatures in the UK soar up to 20C higher than at present.
Seriously -- Brits buy into fear-mongering like this, and we Americans are supposed to be the ignorant rubes?
Science Editor Steve Connor apparently thinks that a study showing the impact of global warming to be "twice as bad as previously thought" is dire news. To me, it says that scientists don't really have a clue about how to accurately forecast global warming.
When you measure the same thing twice, you don't expect the second result to be double the first. If it is, that's a clue that your measurements are worthless. If the second try is 100% higher, perhaps a third try would yield results 100% lower -- that is, zero.
Yes, yes, I know, I know. These scientists used a new! improved! model, with thousands of computers! working in parallel! But any model incorporates assumptions that may or may not prove valid. Change your assumptions, and you change your result. It's just that simple, no matter how many computers are grinding away at the calculations.
Also notable is that the article mentions only the report's "worst-case" scenario. How likely is that scenario to occur? Ten percent? One percent? .00001 percent? And what are the other scenarios like? How likely are they? Are there any where the earth actually gets cooler?
It would be nice to know.
However, Mr. Connor apparently sees his purpose as terrifying Britons into immediate and unwarranted action, rather than skeptically assessing the most drastic outcome of a single new study.
And he's not alone. This earlier post described how one scientist resigned from a U.N.-sponsored global warming research team because he felt the team leader had politicized their research, using the media "to push an unsupported agenda that recent hurricane activity has been due to global warming."
Global warming tends to bring out the zealot in people who in other circumstances, I imagine, would be completely rational. There's a place for breathless shock journalism like this, and it's next to the checkout registers at the supermarket.